Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer

Wolf Parade
At Mount Zoomer

About three years ago, there was this fresh new band, four dudes from Montreal that wanted to make music together. Two of them would share the writing duties, each composing separate songs and then performing them together. They ran off with Arcade Fire’s then-drummer and along with the help of Isaac Brock crafted an album together. When Apologies to the Queen Mary was released it was somewhat of a hit — a huge hit. Fans and critics lauded the band’s ability to write catchy, tense, upbeat music; the kind that you could rock out to and still, dance to, if you wanted.

The remarkable thing was that although these two relatively unknown musicians’ — Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug — music was stylistically different; the album was a cohesively stunning debut. The band has altered things quite a bit with their new album, At Mount Zoomer. Where nine of the debut’s twelve tracks were produced by Brock, everything on here was produced by the band. They also enlisted some time at Arcade Fire’s church studio (yeah, the one got so much attention for last year’s Neon Bible) to record six of the nine songs. These are starkly distinct and quaint differences and they add up to create a much more diverse and wide-open sound-scape.

The opening guitar on “Soldier’s Gun” is utterly transcendent; it’s hummable, menacing and captivating. Boeckner starts off the album with his snarling delivery and the quick triple meter is a nice change. The song shifts style to a laid-back swing that features guitar rips, synthesized reverb and a loopy bass before it shifts back to the opening melody. It’s a brilliant transition and the closing moments lead perfectly into “Call it a Ritual.” Krug’s first song is a stomping piano tune with crashing drums and biting guitars. This is a song where the choice to record in a church is clearly evident. Krug’s vocals echo and sound like he is singing from the top of a mountain; it’s a short but completely engrossing listen.

From here, the album only picks up steam as Boeckner effortlessly steals the show. “Language City” is an accomplished piece of music that uses an array of instruments to deliver one of the album’s many highlights. Colors of piano, guitar and synthesizers create a vast and illustrious canvas that showcase Boeckner’s gripping vocals. The two-headed team of “Bang Your Drum” and “California Dreamer” are a bit underwhelming only because they sound like Sunset Rubdown outtakes. The latter is a straight-ahead piano-driven song that doesn’t offer much other than a three-minute breakdown of Krug quirkiness and striking pianos.

However, the two-headed team of “The Grey Estates” and “Fine Young Cannibals” deliver a wallop of a blow. “The Grey Estates” is a punchy and melodic song that finds Boeckner surprisingly using keyboards to sustain his melody, rather than his faithful guitar. The last minute is music gold as the cymbals crash and the keys pound away while Boeckner howls the vocals — it’s a fantastic moment. The riveting “Fine Young Cannibals” is the album’s top highlight. It’s a restrained song that is built around a chugging drum line, snappy guitar and terrific atmospheric touches. Minimalist adjustments happen throughout the six and a half minute song that are sheer perfection. A nice guitar entrance here, some throbbing piano there, a fast-paced delivery by Boeckner over there, the thumping melody there — it’s all skillfully constructed.

The album’s epic finale is the ultimate culmination of the band’s desires. As both singers join in, the song rides, crashes and strikes for almost eleven minutes. Signs of genius flash as the song romps its way through. At some points Boeckner sings, other times Krug does, sometimes they both shout away and other times Boeckner sings while Krug happily hollers his carnival-esque “oh-oh oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-ohh” yelps. It’s an impressive and grand ending to a fine, fine album; ever ambitious, the quartet doesn’t shy away from giving everything 110%.

In many ways, it’s as if Boeckner is the wolf to Krug’s parade. Boeckner’s songs are sleek, cunning and they have a certain bite to them. Krug’s are outlandish, dramatic and much more eccentric. In the end, they are a perfect match because of their ability to bring out the best in each other. As opposed to their debut — where each song was documented as either a Boeckner or Krug song — here there is no clear division. Sure, you can kind of tell — except for the finale — they each sing four songs and their styles are unmistakable; however, they result in one tight, unified, startling beast of an album — it’s downright astonishing.